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The sentiment, which I have thus attempted briefly to illustratë, has a bearing upon several practical points, and naturally leads to the following
INFERENCES. 1. There is no moral goodness simply in a person's being willing to part with all the honours, pleasures, and possessions of this world, in order to secure everlasting happiness. In such a willingness, some appear to place the sum of true religion, and to regard it as the highest effort of true virtue—the greatest sacrifice which men are required to make. But this is really no more than what the wicked may be, and often have been, willing to do. Whenerer the wicked regard their suture happiness as of more value than this world's goods, and are convinced that they must part with the latter to secure the former; they do not hesitate to make the sacrifice. 'Thousands have acted upon this principle, and shut themselves up in caves and dens of the earth. The most selfish of men may be so deeply impressed with a sense of the value of everlasting happiness, and so thoroughly convinced of the necessity of renouncing the world in order to obtain it, as to feel willing actually to part with all their earthly possessions, honours and pleasures, without a change of heart, or character. If, therefore, there be any real religion, or moral goodness, simply in being willing to part with all the world holds dear, for the sake of eternal life; then all the wicked possess real religion or moral goodness, and there is no material difference between them, and the righteous
2. It may be inferred from what has been advanced, that martyrdoin is not an infallible test of true religion. If the wicked may give all their property to save their lives; they may, upon the same principle, give their lives to save their souls. This it is not improbable, hundreds and thousands may have done. How many have appeared to seek martyrdom, to secure heaven! The followers of the False Prophet and of the Man of Sin, and even the worshippers of Juggernaut, have immolated themselves, in attestation of their faith and devotion. Martyrdom, then, is not an infallible test of true religion. One may 'give his body to be burned, and yet have not charity.'
3. From what has been said, we may learn, in what true self-denial consists. It must consist in something, which the wicked do not possess. Self-denial is the characteristic of saints, and a principal trait in the character of the followers of Christ. The unrenewed and impenitent never deny themselves.
But the wicked are willing to sacrifice a less private good, to gain, or preserve, a greater. They are willing to part with their property to save their limbs ; with their limbs to save their lives; and their lives, to save their souls. Self-denial, then, does not con
sist in relinquishing a less private good to secure a greater. There is a higher and nobler sacrifice than this, which is peculiar to the ‘perfect and upright, who fear God and eschew evil:' and that is. to part with privale interest, to secure and promote public interest.In a willingness to do this, consists true self-denial. He, who, without a selfish motive or view to personal interest, is willing to give a mite, merely to promote the public good, truly denies himself.He prefers a greater good to a less, and a less evil to a greater; aside from all private, personal considerations. And he who does this, will not hesitate to make any sacrifice, however great, which the general good may require. He has, in his measure, the very spirit of Christ; who, though he was rich, yet for our sakes became poor, that we through his poverty might be rich.'
4. We may learn from this subject, in what respect true religion * exceeds the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees.' Abey were willing to do much in religion, and to make great sacrifices. Ahey prayed long, tythed even their mint and cummin, and compassed sea and land to make proselytes. But they did all, either to gain the applause of men, or secure the favour of God. Whaterer sacrifice they made of private interest, was made entirely with a view to promote a greater private interest. Whereas, true religion includes self-denial. Those, whose righteousness is approved by the law and the gospel, “ lend, hoping to receive nothing again? They are willing to relinquish a part, or the whole of their private interest, when necessary to secure a greater interest of others. On this principle Moses prayed to be blotted out of God's book,' and Paul wished himself accursed from Christ, for his brethren, bis kinsmen according to the flesh.' Here lies the essential difference between true religion, and the righteousness of all boasting Plarisees and hypocritical formalists.
5. Our subject tcaches us the nature of that true love, which fulfills the law, casts out fear, and gives a vital energy to saving failh
. It is disinterested. It includes genuine self-denial. It stands in opposition to private interest, whenever private interest stands in opposition to the public good. This is the proper meaning of the 'word disinterested. One, who possesses true love, neither undervalues his own interest, nor values it merely because it is his own, but feels disposed to renounce it, when necessary to the attainment of a greater good. Any other kind of love is no better than that which Satan attributed to Job, and which he exercised himself.
6. From what has been said, we may learn the nature of good works. “ Faith worketh by love,” and “ love is the fulfilling of the law.” All works, which can with propriety be denominated good, How from true love, which is disinterested in its nature, and involves self-deuial. Those are not good works, which are done from
a selfish and supreme regard to private interest. The question of Satan, “Does Job fear God for nought?” might have received an affirmitive answer, as the event proved. And the same question may be answered in the same way, respecting the good works of all good men. Mercenary works are evil works, condemned by both the law and the gospel.
7. If the wicked are willing to part with a less private good to secure a greater ; then they may, consistently and without any moral change, embrace either the Antinomian, the Arminian, or the Universal scheme of doctrine. For however these several schemes may differ in other resepects, they all agree in this, that no one is required to fear God for nought,' to give up his own interest, to be really disinterested; but that every one may and ought to
make his own happiness his highest end and aim.' All the wicked = therefore, may embrace either of these schemes, with such hearts
as they now have. But if any truly good men do believe either of these anti-scriptural schemes of doctrine; it must be through misapprehension, and contrary to the real feelings and affections of their hearts.
8. Our subject shows the reason, why wicked men, when they understand the system of doctrines contained in the gospel, are so universally displeased with it. This system is built altogether, upon disinterested principles. It teaches self-abasement and selfdenial, supreme love to Christ, unconditional submission to the sovereign will of God, and a willingness to 'forsake all that one hath, his whole interest, if the public good require. But this is directly opposite to all the feelings, affections and desires of all the wicked, who seek their own things, and are lovers of pleasures, more than lovers of God.'
9. From this subject, saints may learn, in what their moral imperfection consists. They are called in scripture, ' persect men;'— and with propriety; for they habitually exercise that perfect love, which fulfills the law, which involves that perfect self-denial, which fulfills the requirement of the gospel. Their moral imperfection, therefore, cannot consist in the impurity and languor of their holy affections; but must consist in their sinful and selfish affections, for which they are very criminal, and for which they ought daily to repent and abhor themselves.
Finally, our subject teaches the wicked what they must do to be saved. They must do nothing which they can do with such hearts as they now have; for whatever they do, in the present state of their hearts, transgresses the law of love, and offends Him who enacted it. They must have new, holy hearts, before they can take one step towards heaven. Their first duty, therefore, and that only which will secure their salvation, is, ' to cast a way all their transgressions, and make themselves new hearts;' or, in other words, to cease to love themselves sellishly and supremely, and to begin to exercise that disinterested love to God, their fellow-creatures, and thenselves, in which that holiness consists, "without which no man shall see the Lord." Amen.
FOR THE HOPKINSIAN MAGAZISE.
ON DIVINE AGENCY. Rev. and dear Sir I was not aware that the answers in my last were indirect. I shall endeavour not to have them so in the present, at all events.
I cannot see why one scripture declaration is not as good proof as a thousand; for, if one is liable to be misunderstood and evaded, two are, and three, and so on, to a thousand.
Hence, there is great propriety in saying, that “the question between us represents the meaning, and not the amount of scriptural declarations concerning the Divine agency."
By “plain and obvious meaning," I have meant no more in the discussion than I would admit in relation to texts of scripture quoted by Universalists in support of their doctrine; viz. a meaning which they may perhaps bear on their face without regard to the context, or the doctrines which the whole Bible when taken together teaches.
I produced the passage relative to the lying spirit, not simply to show that one of 'Calvinist's passages might be understood in my sense, but that it should be understood so; and therefore, that the rest might be. There are many passages of scripture capable of being understood in more than one sense; wherefore it is necessary, in order to arrive at the true meaning, to view the subject in all points of light. Now, that the lying spirit was merely permitted to be in the mouth of Ahab's prophets, is, I think, as plainly shewn as language can shew it. The Lord asked who would go. One spake after this manner, and another after that. At length a spirit came forth, and said he would go; whereupon the Lord said go. And it should be recollected, that the imperative mode is used for permitting as well as commanding. Now how could bare permission be shewn, if this does not show it? Let a parent do the same in relation to a child, which the Lord did in relation to this spirit. Let him ask, Wbich of my children will do a certain thing? 'One comes forward and says, I will do it; to which the parent replies, do it. I ask what is mere permission, if this is not. It is the plain and obvious meaning” of the passage, that it was a bare permission; and therefore my opponent must make it appear that this is not its real meaning, or yield it to me. Tillthen, I shall claim it as an instance of the bare permission of evil, which permission is called the Lord's doing it. If, then, permission is called doing a thing in one instance, other instances in whicn the Lord is said to do things, such as to move, turn, fashion, harden and create, may mean nothing more than permitting the moving, turning, &c. Whether they do mean thus or not, is another consideration.
The way being now prepared, I proceed to state why these passages ought not to be understood in an absolute sense. Fist-Ir we have correct ideas of justice, it would be unjust for God positively to make men have evil inclinations, and then punish them for having those inclinations, Second-If the will is not under the
controul of man, it is useless to call on him to have one different from that which he has. But the Bible represents men as blameahle for their wrong wills; and it calls on them to have different
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